A Turn-Key Time Machine with a Twist
The intimidating, angry sound of side pipes, the rare scent of hydrocarbons knocking sooty memories from the corners of your brain, and the way classic body sculpting and painstaking details of an “old” car rekindle your teenage automotive lust is only part the experience. Because if you’ve ever driven a 50-year-old car, much less a high-strung ’60s race car, you also know well the trepidation that’s part of the irreplaceable experience. Will it startâevery time? Will it overheatâin traffic? Will it stopâespecially when the brakes are hot? Superformance takes all that is good and lust-worthy in a vintage race car and leaves the rest in the past. It also removes the apprehension of driving what for all appearances is a multi-multimillion-dollar vintage race car with provenance. And you won’t need a Lloyd’s of London insurance policy or a chase vehicle driven by a trusty mechanic, either.
Historically speaking, just five known original Grand Sports even exist, most are in museums, and they are quite literally priceless. Under the auspices of General Motors, who provided detailed engineering blueprints and original molds from the ’60s, Superformance offers a brand-new, officially licensed continuation “1963” Corvette Grand Sport #003 race car with the #2 paint scheme just like the one A.J. Foyt drove at Sebring in 1964. But because it is street legal, you can drive it on the road or highway comfortably every day or book a track day to probe your limits. Like the original but with modern manufacturing techniques, parts and materials, the Superformance Corvette Grand Sport is a tube-framed time machine with a hand-laminated fiberglass body but with better-than-original seams, solid door closes, and three-point seat belts. And if you want to take a trip to the desert, they offer power windows, AC that works, and a surprisingly voluminous trunk. All the original-looking details such as headlamps, indicator lenses, leather hood buckles, badges, the steering wheel, and gauges would cause a layperson to wonder, “Is this thing an old one that’s concourse ready, or is this a perfect replica?” The colors are spot on. The interior materials look and feel right. The “knock-off” wheels with safety wire on the spinners are legit.
Driving the Corvette Grand Sport was an absolute blast. What feels vintage was all the stuff you’d hope would make it through worm hole: having to jiggle the key while twisting to start it, giving it a gentle throttle blip to breathe life into it, manually canceling the turn signal each time, and tiny rearview mirrors that shake in sympathy to the engine. These all lend an unmistakable authenticity to the car. On the other hand, all the mechanicals that we’re grateful for aren’t 53 years oldâa pressure-tested stainless-steel fuel tank, four-wheel vented Wilwood disc brakes, Bilstein shocks, an aluminum, single-core hi-po radiator with shroud, electric cooling fans, and braided linesâonly add to the enjoyment and are essentially invisible. The car never threatened to stall or overheat once, it stops with authority, and it started each of the 20-25 times we needed it to for the photo shoot. Also, rather than the original M-22 “Rock Crusher” four-speed, a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission was familiar and trouble-free (with the exception of a finicky reverse gate) with linear and predictable clutch engagement.
And the stonking V-8 belching through the side pipes sounded just like you imagine: vintage race car stuff, although not quite as lopey or explosive as the 377-cubic-inch Hemi with racing cams and four 58mm Weber sidedraft carbs good for about 550 horsepower of the original car. The substantial tubular steel chassis is built to accept a wide range of affordable, warrantied crate engines from GM’s LS-line (starting at about $6,000 USD) and E-Rod V-8 offerings (starting at $9,000 USD) or specialized engines such as this car’s $22,000 USD (plus $10,500 USD installation) 592-horsepower Lingenfelter LS7 (427 cubic inches) with a dual Holley EFI manifold. Putting this much power to road, especially in a car that weighs the same as a Honda Civic (and about 850 pounds (385 kg) more that the original), was a challenge for the street-legal Avon classic-car tires on 15-inch Halibrand-style center-lock magnesium wheels. By design, these Avons don’t offer as much grip as modern tires (to be gentler on genuine vintage cars), but there’s plenty of confidence and compliance to play with. We’d say it would run to 60 in about 3.5 to 4.0 seconds (quicker with grippier tires and practice).
This particular car wanted more camber in the front suspension to quell those monster tires’ habit of nibbling on every surface irregularity, but man, once the steering and tires were loaded, did it ever go around corners, flat as Kansas and with the confidence of a modern sports car. Having grown to expect numb electric-assisted power steering of modern cars, it was also a delight to actually feel the road and the load from the Grand Sport’s hydraulic unit through the retro wheel. Pure, and there’s definitely nothing artificial about this car. Were it our car, we’d need to tweak it a little for track days. The pedals are perfectly aligned in one plane when they’re not in use, but that arrangement doesn’t work for heel-toe downshifts.
Driving from one photo location to another through one of the richest counties in California, it was gratifying to see people’s heads spin when we drove past. Perhaps it was because this Corvette was so magnificently loud, but the car was impossible to ignore. There were some glares of disapproval, which we loved, but there were some “thumbs-up vintage race car dude” nods, too. I doubt people realize how stunningly rare and astronomically expensive the car would be were it the real deal. Only a true racing historian or trained Corvette spotter would appreciate that aspect of it, but we think people knew it was something special regardless.
Despite being so utterly livable, drivable, and anvil-reliable, we suspect this car would be a third or fourth car for most prospective buyers. That’s why the $99,900 USD base price of the TKM rolling chassis (“turn-key minus” engine, transmission, and installation) isn’t really out of lineâespecially when you see it up close and can appreciate all the work that goes into it. Besides the pricey designer engine of this particular car, it also had optional paint, interior materials, authentic fender, and tail cutouts; side pipes made of stainless steel (rather than primered steel); power windows; air-conditioning; a differential oil cooler (on the rear deck); magnesium wheels; Avon racing tires; and an in-tank fuel pump for a grand total of $164,020 USD. That’s a lot of money, but it’s also a lot of car for the money. And considering that the last 1963 Corvette Grand Sport that was offered at auction did not sell for $4.9 million USD, it’s a certified deal.
|Superformance “1963” Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport|
|BASE PRICE||$99,000 (minus engine/transmission)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||7.0L/592 hp (est)/546 lb-ft (est) OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||2,850 lb (mfr est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||179.3 x 69.6 x 49.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5-5.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||10/13/11 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||337/259 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.74 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|